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Fake Faint

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A character pretends to lose consciousness in order to create a distraction, to get out of doing something they don't like or for some other reason.

People tend to notice when someone collapses. Often, they will try to help out. At the very least they try to determine the cause in order to protect themselves. People focused on the fainter tend to miss other things going on around them. The person who has fainted is almost certainly seen as harmless. These reactions are fairly easy to take advantage of:

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  • The Drama Queen wants some attention? A fake fainting spell is practically guaranteed to bring an entire bevy of helpers to her beck and call.
  • Need to pull someone's attention away from something they are not supposed to notice? If you're the Guile Heroine, a faked faint will tend to get everyone focused on innocent little you, and away from the unlicensed dragon coming in for a landing.
  • Can't figure out how to lift the MacGuffin off of Lord Evil? Since most people don't have much muscle control when they faint, perhaps that's the perfect cover for a pick-pocketing attempt...

Related to We Need a Distraction.

Compare Playing Sick, Playing Possum, Prank Injuries, Obfuscating Disability, and Faking Amnesia.


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Examples

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    Asian Animation 
  • In the Simple Samosa episode "Makkhi Makkhi!", Samosa distracts the angry mob away from him and the fly by pretending to faint after a failed "attempt" to fight off the fly with a flashlight.

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics: In one comic, Veronica informs Archie that she is on a diet — and so is he if he wants to date her. But they were already on a date when she said this, and Archie, aghast at being forced to skip dinner, "faints from hunger" on the sidewalk. His friends quickly move to get some smelling salts from malt-shop-owner Pop Tate; upon hearing that Archie lifts his head and says, "And tell him to put some ketchup and pickle on it!"
  • Tintin:
    • After a bomb goes off, Tintin fakes being knocked out to be carried outside by paramedics, then evade capture.
    • In "Flight 714 to Sydney", Rastapopoulos collapses while being marched through the jungle at gunpoint. Haddock isn't having any of it, and jabs a thorn into Rastapopoulos' backside to get him moving again.
  • The Punisher MAX: After Barracuda is (finally) knocked out, Frank breaks one of his fingers to make sure it's not a feint. He still wakes up a few minutes later, until Frank kills him for good.
  • In Violine, Violine fakes fainting to allow her to warn her father about Muller waiting outside.

    Films—Animation 
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    Films—Live-Action 
  • In Chicago, Roxie pretends to faint during her trial to play up her image as a tragic Broken Bird who was forced to kill in self-defense and drum up sympathy.
  • In Dave, the eponymous character performs one after confessing to the President's illegal actions and exonerating the Vice President, during the joint session of Congress. It works because the President (whom he had been impersonating) had suffered a stroke earlier in the movie, and this was used as a means of swapping Dave with the real coma-bound President after he chose to come clean about the President's illegal activities.
  • Exaggerated in the 2005 version of Fun with Dick and Jane. As part of their bank robbery plan, Jane steps through the front door and dramatically sighs to the floor while Dick loudly cries, "Oh my goodness, this woman has fainted!", distracting everyone in the room. For added measure, Dick suggests a security guard "loosen her blouse to let her breathe" in order to steal his security card. The moment he's in the clear, Jane immediately rises to her feet, supposedly revived. Since this is a comedy, the lemming-like response is Played for Laughs.
  • Possibly with Aunt Pittypat in Gone with the Wind, who swoons and weeps and wails over everything, but keeps it together when her beloved niece is dying, the one time such behavior would have been justified, thus indicating that her previous hysterics have been an act.
  • Kitty Foyle accidentally triggers the burglar alarm at the department store where she works. Realizing she's about to get fired, Kitty pretends to faint. This not only works, it also introduces her to her handsome doctor boyfriend when he tends to her.
  • In Men in Black II Scrad and Charlie pretend to collapse after seeing Serleena flash her bra in order to create a distraction while she infests MIB headquarters.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: Near the end of the film, Elizabeth pretends to faint in order to distract the guards and give Jack Sparrow a chance to escape hanging. It's particularly effective because she had earlier actually fainted and fallen into the bay from that exact spot due to an overly tight corset.
    • Elizabeth pulls one of these again in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest to try and keep the others from fighting over the chest with Davy Jones' heart inside it. It doesn't work; they're all too caught up in the fight to even notice.
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982): Marguerite uses this to get access to a note from the Pimpernel. It allows her to maneuver Sir Andrew into a situation where he thinks it is safe to read the note.
  • Superman: The Movie: Clark Kent pretends to faint as a cover-up for his Bullet Catch in the alley.
  • Working Girl: Katherine fakes a dizzy spell to garner sympathy from the board members who might listen to her secretary Tess (who's telling the truth about Katherine stealing her idea for a business merger) instead of her (who, as stated, is lying and claiming the idea was hers).

    Literature 
  • Fainting Maid in Bridge of Birds uses this so often that she is named for it. Master Li turns it against her when her exact method of fainting ("Two steps backward, six to the left") is used to drop her down the same well she drowned her rival in.
  • Discworld: Christine in Maskerade pulls this one whenever a play would call for the heroine to faint, usually Monster or Emotional Faint situations. Agnes notes with considerable scorn that she even falls in such a way as to avoid hurting herself when she lands.
  • In the Dragonlance novel Dragons of Spring Dawning, when the elven princess Laurana is threatened with rape by the Dragonarmy officer Bakaris, she pretends to faint, and then when he moves in to catch her, punches him hard in the stomach.
  • The Finishing School Series: The students of Spy School Mademoiselle Geraldine's are taught how to faint graciously, and the right times to do so.
  • In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Gilderoy Lockhart pulls a fake faint to try to steal a wand. It works too well, though.
  • In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and its cinematic adaptation, Quirell pretends to faint when announcing the troll escape.
  • James Bond, Casino Royale. A mook threatens to shoot Bond with a silenced gun hidden in his cane unless he withdraws from the game, saying he'll be gone from the casino before anyone realises Bond hasn't just passed out. Instead Bond pretends to faint from the tension of the high stakes game, falling backward in his chair and knocking the weapon from the man's hands.
  • In Kingsley Amis' Lucky Jim, Bill Atkinson faints loudly and dramatically during a public lecture in order to aid the lecturer's escape. It doesn't quite work, as the lecturer (and title character) faints for real seconds after.
  • In The Mad King by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the heroine pretends to faint at her wedding to force a halt to proceedings and buy time after realizing that the man walking up the aisle is not her beloved but his Identical Stranger cousin.
  • The Parasol Protectorate: At the beginning of the first book, after Alexia Tarabotti has killed a vampire who tried to attack her, she's about to leave the room when a bunch of young men come in. Forced to pretend that she's also just arrived and found the body, she promptly "faints", and stays resolutely fainted until the arrival of Lord Maccon, who wouldn't fall for it in any case.
  • The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System: Ren Zha Fanpai Zijiu Xitong: If there's no way Shang Qinghua can avoid a situation or hide behind someone powerful, his next go-to action is to pretend to faint on the spot.
    • When Mobei-Jun shows up at the opening of the Endless Abyss, he immediately flings Shang Qinghua into a tree, appearing to knock him out. Shen Qingqiu knows he's faking it as Shang Qinghua is actually a spy working for Mobei-Jun.
    • As a disciple, he pretended to faint in front of Wei Qingwei to avoid having to come up with an excuse on the spot for what he'd been doing for the past few days and why he hadn't been slaughtered by Mobei-Jun like many of his fellow disciples.
  • Sherlock Holmes: Holmes is quite good at pretending to faint while on a case.
    • In "A Scandal In Bohemia", Holmes (in disguise as a priest) fakes being knocked out during a fight so he can be brought into Irene Adler's house and learn where she keeps a compromising photograph.
    • In "The Reigate Squire", Holmes is in the countryside on a medically-imposed break. He suffers a few nervous attacks, which turn out to have been faked so that he could search the house unobstructed (it almost gets him killed by the criminals when they catch him red-handed, but allows them to be caught as they're strangling him).
    • In "The Resident Patient", a patient visiting a doctor fakes an attack of catalepsy to keep the doctor busy while his accomplice goes up to get at the titular resident patient (a former criminal who gave evidence against them).
      Watson: And the catalepsy!
      Holmes: A fraudulent imitation, Watson, though I should hardly dare to hint as much to our specialist. It is a very easy complaint to imitate. I have done it myself.
  • In Sorcerer Conjurer Wizard Witch, the Diabolical Mastermind Zenf and one of the heroes have a meeting on neutral territory, at the end of which Zenf's female accomplice covers his departure by faking a faint, falling into the hero, and knocking him to the ground.
  • Milady de Winter in The Three Musketeers pretends to faint while faking a suicide attempt in a British prison.
  • In The Wind in the Willows, Mr. Toad pulls a prank on Ratty and Moley by asking, "Is it dark in here?!" and demanding a doctor and a lawyer before collapsing on the couch with his eyes shut.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: In "Angel S 04 E 13 Salvage", Cordelia does her Fainting Seer act when Connor is about to walk out and take on Angelus.
    Gunn: Get her to the couch. (Fred, Gunn, and Lorne move Cordelia to a nearby chair)
    Cordelia: (comes to) What happened?
    Fred: You fainted.
    Cordelia: Oh. You mean like this? (faints again)
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Monster of Peladon", Sarah Jane has Queen Thalira pretend to faint in order to distract the Ice Warrior guarding the door to the throne room.
    • In 'The Crimson Horror', Jenny pays a woman to cause a distraction. She obliges by pretending to faint.
  • In the Fawlty Towers episode "Gourmet Night", Basil is forced to introduce a man named "Twitchen" to another man who had a facial tic. He frantically tries to get out of it, and eventually pretends to faint for a moment.
  • In Frasier, Niles pretends to faint into a man's arms in the last of a long string of attempts to stop said man from throwing Frasier out of a party before he can seal an important deal vital to Niles and Frasier's latest "Fawlty Towers" Plot.
  • Game of Thrones: Ygritte, Jon's Action Girlfriend parodies swooning when he explains what it is to her.
  • House of Anubis: In one episode, Nina needs time to get a clue out of the hallway chandelier. To help distract Victor and Trudy, Amber pretends to faint and Nina runs to get everybody to help her, then gets the clue. As soon as Nina's done, Amber hops back up as if nothing ever happened.
  • In H₂O: Just Add Water, Cleo pretends to faint in "Under the Weather" to avoid the girls having to go out in the rain (as that would turn them into mermaids). Unfortunately this starts a chain of events escalating until they end up in quarantine with the medical specialists believing they're dealing with a serious unknown illness.
  • Magnificent Century: In the first episode, Hürrem pretends to faint, in order to get Süleyman to hold her.
  • In M*A*S*H episode M*A*S*H S6 E5: The Winchester Tapes: Attempted by one Corporal Max "I-want-outta-this-rotten-stinking-Army" Klinger.note  After hearing the usual symptoms preceding a faint, Klinger promptly emulates them. Winchester, not at all impressed, proceeds to correct Klinger by telling him that people usually fall forward when they faint. Klinger recovers, says that he was just testing, and promptly does it again.
  • Doctor Cox does this an episode of Scrubs to "demonstrate" how boring J.D.'s story is.
    "Hope that hurt."
    "Totally worth it!"
  • Spellbinder: Kathy constantly pretends to faint in the Land of the Immortals, since her dress gives her an easy way to sell it, and it's the fastest way to meet with Dr Elvo.
  • Mr. Scott pulled off a brief Fake Faint to distract and help disarm an intellectually-empowered, yet still-not-all-that-bright female alien in the "Spock's Brain" episode of Star Trek.

    Theatre 
  • Chicago: In the song "When Velma Takes the Stand", Velma rehearses what she'll do to gain the jury's sympathy when she's called to testify at her trial, which includes pretending to be overcome and then faint.
  • In Act II of The Girl Of The Golden West, the heroine throws a poker game by pretending to faint so she can stash her cards in her blouse and pull out a winning hand from her stocking.
  • William Shakespeare play Macbeth. Done by Lady Macbeth in an attempt to draw suspicion away from her husband. Macbeth is being asked some very awkward questions about why he killed King Duncan's supposed assassins (instead of keeping them alive so they can tell who put them up to it). Her fainting diverts the attention of the questioner, and by the time everything is sorted out the king's sons have fled and Macbeth can put the blame on them.
  • In Act I of The Marriage of Figaro, Susanna tries one of these, apparently to get her employer to leave her alone. Depending on the production, this may actually backfire if the Count decides to give her some air by loosening her clothes...
  • Rebecca: The heroine faints in court at the very moment her husband was about to break under pressure. During the chaos that erupts, Ich can be seen exiting the scene walking out instead of being carried by someone. Favell later sarcastically remarks that she has quickly recovered from her faint.

    Visual Novels 
  • Majotachi no Nemuri: After a car crash, Toshio is in an unnamed town. Officer Kawamura tells him that he needs to head to the next town, since this town has no inn. Toshio pretends to almost faint, and says that it's from the shock of surviving the crash. He's really hiding the fact that he's in town to investigate the death of his friend, Yoriko.

    Webcomics 
  • Rachel from Tower of God pretended to faint after she heard that Bam had died. We know she's faking it because she killed him.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • Danny Gonzalez: Attempted and mocked. In a collaboration video with Ryan Trahan, the two of them went over some weird Wikihow articles. One of them was about "How to Pretend to Faint", and to demonstrate, Ryan repeatedly kept pretending to pass out, falling out of his chair multiple times.
  • Homestar Runner: In "A Folky Tale," Strong Sad tells a long-winded story to get out of gym class, then faints when it doesn't work. When Coach Z dances away in a panic over having "killed the elephant man," Strong Sad lifts his head to mention that he's pulled this before and that it always works.

    Western Animation 
  • Angelina Ballerina: In one episode, Angelina is initially pleased to be in the school play but becomes nervous when she learns she will be suspended from the ceiling, particularly when she learns it'll only be by a single wire. She pretends to pass out so that her teachers will think she's sick, but gives herself away by winking at Alice before doing so.
  • In the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Rabbit Punch", Bugs is on a boxing match. He says to the audience that he'll feint the Champ out of position; he walks over to the Champ, then faints, and when the Champ looks down to see if he's okay, Bugs punches him with both fists.
  • In the Animated Adaptation of Milly, Molly, the episode "B.B. Brown" has an episode where the eponymous boy is sharing his lunch with the girls. He jokingly warns them that it's contaminated with "boy germs", and Molly takes a bite and pretends to pass out from said germs. B.B. Brown takes a bite of banana and pretends to pass out as well.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: While Rarity does actually faint sometimes when she's highly emotional, she occasionally just pretends to in order to exaggerate.
  • Princess Adora, in the pilot of She-Ra: Princess of Power, pulls off one of these to convince Skeletor and his cronies that she's a helpless, timid royal. Humiliations ensue for the poor creeps when the ruse is revealed.
  • The Simpsons: In "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming", Homer pretends to faint to get out of paying for expensive beers.
  • Doug Savage of Science Court keeps doing this during the episode defining living things much to the annoyance of Judge Stone.
    Doug Savage: Huh?
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Dangerous Debt", Trace Martez pretends to faint when confronted with the possibility of Electric Torture, in order to steal the blaster of one of the guards holding her and escape.

 
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Distracting Victor

Amber faints to distract Victor away from the chandelier.

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